It looks as if 2014 is shaping up to be somewhat unusual for education in New Zealand – three key developments are happening.
In March a set of Education Festivals will be held in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Developed by Cognition Education and with the four key themes of COLLABORATION, INNOVATION, COHESION and CELEBRATION. The festivals are co-ordinated by Cognition Education with the support of the Ministry of Education and will coincide with the 4th International Summit on the Teaching Profession, jointly hosted by the OECD, Education International and New Zealand through the MOE.
The festivals focused on two key dimensions, the performance of students, teachers, schools and institutions in our community and the proud record New Zealand has inspired improved educational achievement in other countries by sharing our expertise and systems.
The press education receives is generally at best miserable and at times plain negative. I have frequently pointed out that the profession too often contributes to this. Here is a golden opportunity for education to put on its best clothes and strut its stuff in public and rather then spout clichés about a “world class education system” , to allow the outcomes of the work of schools and other education providers be seen and enjoyed by a wider community. Let the work and skills of our students be the push for the excellent brew that comes out in most schools.
An added opportunity is to be able to do this while an international community of educators is here as our guest – a chance not only to show and teach but also to listen and to learn. The participating countries at the 4th International Summit are the top 20 education systems as measured by the PISA results and the five fastest improvers.
This is a unique opportunity for New Zealand to learn and to gain insights into how we can match achievement data with greatly improved equity measures. Both the festival and the summit will allow us to share insights with others and to learn from the insights of others. This is not a bragging contest but potentially could be a fine week for education n New Zealand.
The Minister of Education Hon Hekia Parata is behind both of these initiatives and her leadership deserves strong support from the sector and from all levels within the sector.
The third element that could lift the image of education in New Zealand is the announcement, also from Minister Parata, of the inaugural Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards to be introduced for 2014. The tertiary education sector has had just such a set of awards for about 10 years and they have been markedly successful under the astute leadership of Ako Aotearoa.
This new set of awards will focus on early childhood education, primary and secondary schooling and collaboration between secondary schools, tertiary providers and employers. This last award – collaboration – is particularly pleasing coming at a time when it is emerging that pathways between sectors will be a critical feature of the new environment that will allow us to address equity.
Ands that brings us back to the festival and the summit. We need to see these three developments as a set of tools that the education system can use to create a better education sector, one characterised by collaboration, by clear evidence of excellence and by a commitment to improved equity of outcomes. We will do this in part by seeing collaboration (bringing the fragmented sector together for the festival) and celebrating (excellence in teaching through the awards) as necessary to lifting our game. Necessary but not in themselves sufficient – long term change will require us to make a habit of collaboration and celebration.
- Festivals of Education – Auckland (21-23 March 2014), Wellington (29 March 2014) and Christchurch (23 March 2014)
- The 4th International Summit on the Teaching Profession – March 2014
- Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards – entries close 31 March 2014
Roll on March I say.